With more and more highly qualified professionals entering the market, it’s never been more important to be one step ahead of your competitors. Having exceptional interview skills and making that great first impression is crucial to landing the job you want. Here are 3 tips that will help you stand out from the crowd and impress any interviewer:
1) Demonstrate you know their business inside out
One of the questions you might get asked in an interview is ‘Why do you want to work for us?’. The purpose of the question is two-fold: 1) they want to see how much thought and consideration you have put into your career and 2) how committed you are to joining their company.
Most job seekers prepare for this question by going onto the company website and researching the following:
a) Company size in terms of annual revenue, net worth, number of offices worldwide and number of employers
b) World rank
As such they will come up with an answer like:
“As the market leader in e.g. Oil and Gas, making over $500m in revenue last year and a company with over 80,000 employees in 30 different countries worldwide, your success is evident. This is why I want to work for you”.
It’s great that you took the initiative to read their website. Some job seekers don’t even know to do that. But with more and more advice online on how to answer interview questions, I guarantee you that the interviewer will get this answer 80% of the time. If you really want to impress the interviewer your answer needs to show a deeper level of analysis and understanding of their business. You want to find out about:
a) Achievements in the last 5 years
b) Who their competitors are
c) Any data on growth or recent talent acquisition
d) The key challenges they face in terms of how to keep ahead of the competition as well as any challenges specific to their industry
e) Recent news e.g. new products, services or technology, innovation plans, mergers, takeovers, acquisitions, corporate social responsibility programs, endorsements etc
f) Company leadership team – who are they, what’s their vision, what have they done for the company
With this information you could answer the ‘Why do you want to work for us question?’ like this:
“6 months ago I read an article stating that this company had developed a new manufacturing process which reduced your carbon footprint by 30% – even though manufacturing was up by 13%. As someone who values both innovation and corporate social responsibility, this really caught my interest. With further research, I was impressed the company had seen 10% increase in revenue in 2014 even though your top 3 competitors (x, y and z) had all suffered losses of $50m, $100m and $150m respectively. I went to see the CEO, e.g. John Smith, speak at two separate seminars and I was inspired by his vision and his amazing ability to identify business opportunities where nobody else would see them. I firmly believe this company is way ahead in the game and I would love the opportunity to learn from the best and contribute to its future success.”
2) Make the link between what you and what they do
Again, this is about having a deep understanding of their business. What products/services do they focus on? Are they a high volume, low margin business or a low volume high margin business? How does this affect their sales and marketing strategies? Their finance processes and procedures? What’s the company structure? How does this impact their HR strategies, policies and procedures? Which countries are they focusing on right now? What’s their vision? What do they want to achieve? Where does your role fit into all of this?
Once you know everything about them, start to link your experience and skills to what they do and what they want to accomplish. This will help you answering questions such as “Tell me about that role”, “What was your biggest achievement in that role?” and “Why should we hire you?”
Saying “While I was working at ‘x’ company I grew sales by 30%” is OK. But if you really want to impress the employer, make the link between what you did and what they do. One example could be:
Analysing your company, I recognise you are a high volume, low margin business operating specifically within the manufacturing space. I also understand you want to establish operations in the Middle East. In my most recent role, I was hired to increase the sales revenue of the newly established UAE office for ‘x’ company and expand the business across the MENA region. X company is also a high volume, low margin business selling electronic goods to manufacturing companies worldwide. In just over 6 months, I identified and established relationships with the key customers in the UAE and increased sales by 30%, generating $100m in revenue. Since then I have established offices in KSA, Kuwait, and Egypt and have brought in over $350m in sales in 18 months. With this relevant experience, I believe I could realistically achieve the same results for you.
3) Ask intelligent and considered questions at the end
Companies only want to hire people who are serious about working for them. If you fail to ask questions at the end, you are giving the impression you don’t care about working for them. You just want a job and a salary.
The fact is though, you shouldn’t just be asking questions to impress the employer. You really should be asking them to make sure that this is the right employer for you. So first of all, you really want to figure out what is most important to you about your career i.e. what are your core values? Once you know these you will be able to ask questions that will help you figure out whether or not this is the right company for you. Examples of core values could be growth, contribution, leadership, development, recognition, innovation, creativity, structure, processes, learning, independence, freedom, authority to make decisions, management, sense of family, fun, passion etc.
Let’s say the things most important to you in your career are: growth, training and development and innovation, you could ask some of the following questions:
i) You’ve experienced 10% growth in the last 3 consecutive years. What growth are you aiming for over the next 3 years and what strategies or measures are you putting in place to achieve this?
ii) What are the major challenges you will face over the next 3 years, and how do you envisage overcoming them?
iii) Your main competitor ‘x’ just announced they will be releasing a new product this year. How do you think this will affect your business and how do you plan to stay ahead of your competitors in the foreseeable future?
iv) How many people did you recruit in the last 6 months? (This will help you gauge how quickly they are growing as well as how much freedom you will have to expand your team if necessary. If they say none, it could be a warning bell).
v) How much did you spend on training and development last year? What training and development programs did you run in the last 6 months? At what levels do you offer training and development?
vi) What’s your vision for the person in this role? How do you see their career developing within your organization?
Other good questions to ask are:
a) What have been your biggest challenges in the last year and how have you overcome them?
b) (To the interviewer): since joining the company, has working here met or surpassed your expectations, and if so how? (Watch their facial expression/body language and assess whether or not they are excited about working there.)
c) What are your biggest employee success stories? (This will help you gauge how much they value their staff, actively promote, and recognise employee talents and contribution to the company.)
d) A small downturn has been predicted for 2016. What analysis have you done to see how this will impact your business and what measures are you putting in place to offset this?
e) What has been your retention rates over the last 3 years? What employee engagement and retention programs do you have in place? (Again, look for any signs in their facial expression or body language that could indicate they might have some problems with employee retention.)
The more serious about your career you are, the more intelligent your questions will be. So really take the time to think about what information you need to decide whether or not they are the employer for you.
Seeing that you fully understand their business, how your role will fit into the company and that you’re serious about your career will impress any interviewer.
For more advice on how to make a successful career change, please visit www.zetayarwood.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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